That Summer Feeling

What’s been primarily engaging me today (enough that I would mention it, anyway) is how I can reduce (or, better, eliminate) nursery rhymes and annoying kids’ songs from my ears? I was thinking that if I can keep them out my ears then they are unlikely to find their way into my head at all.

The prospect of 2 hours in a car exposed to Hey Diddle Diddle type insanity is enough to kill the notion of a wholesome and enjoyable Sunday afternoon family outing at source.

With this in mind I’ve been thinking that there must be some common ground, musically speaking, between kids and adults. Or at least between me and my kids. After all, we do belong, broadly speaking, to the same species.

To be fair, our kids do have a couple of favourites which I’ve grown to love myself. The “Curious George” and “Pooh’s Heffalump” soundtracks by Jack Johnson and Carly Simon, respectively, are well made and far from offensive. I know this to be true as I’ve listened to them several thousand times with little or no ill-effects. The same could not be said for many of the other uptempo, fiascos to which I’m repeatedly exposed.

One of my favourite artists for many years has been Jonathan Richman. He’s truly a one-off. His songs can sound deceptively simple, even sentimental and child-like. Maybe this is the musical common ground I’m searching for. To the uninitiated, Richman’s music can sound silly and childish. I once heard his work compared to the nonsense-art of Marcel Duchamp. He sings a song about an abominable snowman which includes,

“See, there’s an abominable snowman in the market

And the situation is grave

Well, the housewives hurt and confuse him

I can’t stand to see him treated this way”


But I never thought of Richman’s work as nonsense art. This implies art for arts sake. To me, his great strength lies in his ability to unselfconsciously sing about childish things in a way that isn’t twee or cloying.

Does the abominable snowman represent a metaphor for, say, a social outcast? I do hope not. He’s actually singing about an abominable snowman who is “down by the peas and carrots”. And why wouldn’t he be? This is a supermarket he’s in after all. The song is a bit silly and my kids love it. It rocks like hell and I love it too.

Probably Richman’s most famous song is his 1970 proto-punk anthem “Roadrunner”. This is pretty much a straight down the line rock’n’roll song but the opening lines of the song give us some clues to what he’s about,

“Roadrunner, roadrunner, going faster miles an hour”.

Faster miles an hour! That’s about as fast as you can get, I imagine.

A recurring theme in many of his songs is a yearning for youth lost, this from “Summer Feeling”:

“When even fourth grade starts looking good, Which you hated

And first grade’s looking good too, Overrated,

And you long for some little girl That you dated

Do you long for her of for the way you were,

That summer feeling is gonna haunt you For the rest of your life.”

So next time your kid complains about something or other, simply play them that. Tell them they’re lucky to be young. That’ll work! If not they might just enjoy the song anyway.

I saw Richman play in Boston a few years ago and it was a great gig. Loads of kids there too even though it was quite late. He really engaged with them and he went down a storm with everyone. I don’t know any other singer who could have achieved this. I look forward to the day he comes to Ireland again and we’ll make a family outing of it.

p.s. Inspired by all this I’ve just put most of the kids cds in the recycling. A tad rash? Worse, I don’t even know if they’re recyclable.


Roadrunner is available on Amazon:

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This website was created by Jill Holtz and Michelle Davitt, both of whom are mothers of young children. Jill and Michelle decided to create this resource themselves, and launched in 2007.